Saturday, August 20, 2011

Memories of a Date with the Printed Word

Today is Saturday.

Those are powerful words to me that spark a rush of sensory recall and always, always bring to mind my father and borrowed books.

Decades ago, in the land where I spent my childhood, there were no Borders or Amazon.coms. The local Carnegie Library, with its roaming Bookmobile, was the go-to place for bibliophiles. Thanks to my mother, who had told me stories and read books to me daily since my infancy, I could already be counted a bibliophile at a tender age. Once I could read on my own, I craved a larger world to explore.

That’s when my father stepped into the picture. We had a standing date on Saturdays. While my friends watched cartoons in their pajamas, I dressed for a downtown outing. My father forfeited the time he spent daily with his business buddies and instead took me to one of his favorite diners for breakfast, after which we drove to the library.

The Carnegie Library stood majestically atop a slight hill, its stained-glass windows adding religious undertones to its architectural grandeur. I felt privileged to be permitted inside.

Children’s books were shelved in the basement, where there were three rooms of books and one exceptional librarian (likely charmed by my father) who broke all the rules. She allowed me to borrow twice the maximum number of books every week. It was our secret. She didn’t have much to worry about, though. I treated books well, read quickly, and returned all the books the following Saturday because I could hardly wait to get new ones. The more books I borrowed, the more I loved books.

After I’d chosen a stack of biographies and animal tales, I’d tag along with my father to work, where I could learn from him the finer points of repairing typewriters or I could start reading my treasures. To my father’s (feigned) dismay, I usually chose the latter.

Our Saturday dates subsided as I got older—relegated to a mere memory.

Then I moved to the Bluegrass to be near my father during his final battle with cancer. It was a Saturday in October last year when I took him out for breakfast, then drove to a local library branch so I could apply for a library card. My father remained in the car, where he was most comfortable.

It didn’t take long for me to return to him—a stack of books about horses in hand. He stared at it for a bit, deep in thought.

“Hmm,” he finally stirred. “It’s Saturday, isn’t it?”

Yes, it is, Dad. Today is Saturday. Our day.

[Sculpture by Melissa A. Brown.]

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